Laos can be described as “simply beautiful”. Bringing together the beauties of Southeast Asia, travelers are drawn by the countries laid-back lifestyle, monasteries, mountains, diverse architecture and majestic landscapes. From its untouched nature to the authentic Buddhist culture, Laos has something for every traveler to enjoy.
Laotian cuisine is one of the most underrated and overlooked cuisines in the world. With fresh local ingredients and range of flavors and spice, Laotian food is more than enough to satisfy travelers’ appetite.
Sticky rice is the staple food of Laos. Most meals consist of sticky rice, and the rice is usually eaten with your hands.
Due to previous French colonization, Lao cuisine also contains a bit of French influence. For example, baguette sandwiches (Khao Jee sandwiches) can be found in the streets.
Other known dishes include:
- Tam Mak Huong- This dish is a papaya salad with raw papaya, garlic, chili, peanuts, sugar, fermented fish sauce and lime juice.
- Larb or Laap- This is a traditional dish made from choice of meat or mushrooms. The meat is flavored with lime juice, fish sauce, herbs and spices. The dish is usually served with sticky rice.
- Sai Oua- This is a popular type of Lao sausage made from pork. The sausage is flavored with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, cilantro, galangal and fish sauce.
- Luang Prabang- Often considered the heart of Laotian culture, this ancient town used to be the capital of the first Lao kingdom. With monks walking around the streets filled with French colonial buildings, the town mixes both Asian heritage and French design. Visitors can also immerse themselves in the beautiful nature that surrounds the town.
- That Luang- Symbolizing the Lao heritage and religion, That Luang was built as early as the third century. The building that stands 45 meters high is believed to have housed Buddha’s breastbone.
- Tham Phu Kham- It is cave meaning “blue lagoon” because its surrounded by blue water. The cave is considered holy and contains several religious relics. The main chambers houses a large bronze Thai Buddha. Visitors will not only be allured by the cave’s spiritual presence but also its natural beauty flowing in emerald waters.
Laos is definitely not the destination if you are looking for a huge party scene, but it does not mean that there is no place for you to enjoy yourself at night. Vientiane has become the center of nightlife in Laos and you’ll find bowling centers, clubs, night markets, pubs and more. Furthermore, the beer of Laos, Beerlao, has been rising in popularity as the best beer in Southeast Asia. Travelers can enjoy some good beer made from jasmine rice while they are in town.
The official currency is kip. Although some places do accept card and dollars, kip is mainly used in many businesses.
Customs & Languages
Laotian is the official language of Laos. However, it is referred to as the Isan language in Northeast of Thailand. The language is very similar to the Thai language, where it is written slightly different, but linguistically similar. There are six different dialects, but the main dialect is Vientiane. Over generations and generations, Laos have picked up influences from Southeast Asia, France, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Burma, and Cambodia. They have a “live and let live” attitude and lifestyle. However, there are several things that you should not do when you are there! One, do not touch a monk, especially if you are a woman. It is considered rude and anything handed to them, should be passed to a male intermediary. Be sure not to step on their robes anywhere! Two, avoid wearing revealing clothing. Laos is a pretty conservative country and home to historical sites and sacred temples. By wearing revealing clothing, it is disrespecting their culture. It is recommended to have arms, shoulders, and knees covered at all times.
Here are some helpful words/phrases:
- Hello — Sabaidi
- Please — Kaluna
- Thank you — Khobchai
- How much? — Theoa dai
- Where is the bathroom? — Hong noa yu sai
- Excuse me — Kho a phai